What is Spiritual Abuse?
The following comments are excerpted from Healing Spiritual Abuse by Ken Blue:
Abuse of any type occurs when someone has power over another and uses that power to hurt. Physical abuse means that someone exercises physical power over another, causing physical wounds. Sexual abuse means that someone exercises sexual power over another, resulting in sexual wounds. And spiritual abuse happens when a leader with spiritual authority uses that authority to coerce, control or exploit a follower, thus causing spiritual wounds.
Spiritual abuse may differ from other forms of abuse in that it is rarely perpetrated with intent to maim … Spiritual abusers are curiously naïve about the effects of their exploitation. They rarely intend to hurt their victims. They are usually so narcissistic or so focused on some great thing they are doing for God that they don’t notice the wounds they are inflicting on their followers.
Some spiritual leaders gently coerce their congregations through skillful use of the language of intimacy and trust … At the top end of the continuum I place the deliberate exploitation and domination of the weak by a grandiose, authoritarian dictator.
People who “survive” spiritual abuse often wander in a kind of limbo; they are confused, hurt and angry … They had been intensely dedicated to Christ at one time … The most committed believers are often the most vulnerable to abusive religion.
The authoritarian, narcissistic ecclesiastical abusers of our day are the modern equivalent of the Pharisees whom Jesus scolded. Jesus not only exposed and denounced the Pharisees as false shepherds but also offered himself as advocate for their victims … [Spiritual abuse was] the one social problem Jesus himself seemed to care about most.